Topic-iconRules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

habaya created the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 2 weeks ago

We have been doing extensive testing of the new air warfare system in 1.5 beta. I think the 3-cycle attack runs and the introduction of fuel are excellent ideas. However, it seems that by introducing the 3-cycle attack some unexpected issues were introduced.

We ran quite a few 2 carrier vs 2 carrier mini-battles and it turned out the best tactic is to wait for the opponent to attack and slaughter his air groups with our CAPs. Eventually both players were sitting and waiting for the other player to attack, which led to very passive games. Also spotting the enemy earlier did not give any advantage.

Rule book 1.5 beta says any (intercept-capable) aircraft can be considered patrolling who did not make an activation this turn - I am not sure this is intended, maybe this rule is leftover from 1.4 when launching was a direct activation. For this post I consider this rule is intended.

After the investigation we found the following overpowered the defender:
1. The defender can flood the sky around his carriers with planes in short time (just launching is needed, they patrol right away - see above), while attackers need one full turn to get ready for an attack (launch + move). By that time defenders can launch twice: this way defenders easily outnumber the attackers.
2. The defender can see what types enemy planes took off on the other side of the board so he can prepare his defense optimally. As soon as the attacker groups arrive, the defense is ready with matching flight types - he can easily defeat the attacker.

We made two changes that balanced the situation a bit:
- re-introduced the lauch/land limit: this way the defender had to use some of his launching capacity for landing. This equalized the cycles: the excess time needed for the attacker to travel back and forth was compensated by the defender needed excess time to launch/land.
- launched planes could not intercept in the same turn. In the first turns this prevented defenders to destroy attackers as soon as they arrived in the vicinity of their targets.

Even after these changes I think defenders are still a bit overpowered. Best would be to take into account the surprise of the attack (composition and number of attacking groups). We came up with some ideas, such as:
- not allowing to launch flights until enemy is found or enemy aircraft arrive (only default CAP is allowed: max 2 flights / carrier)
- launch AND move as one action (to surprise the defender). Can be an activation, but then the number of order tokens need consideration.
- using hidden tokens for air groups until they arrive neat the target. I realize some people hate hidden tokens, they want to play with miniatures :).

Unfortunately most of these require relatively big changes to current rules, so serious consideration and detailed testing would be needed.

What is your opinion?

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Naval War HQ replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 2 weeks ago

THANK you... this is why playtesting is important and this is why I am so glad you guys are doing it :-)

In 1.4 I covered this by not allowing aircraft to patrol if they activated. Since launching was an activation in 1.4 no patrolling was allowed for aircraft that just launched.

Since I changed launching aircraft to no longer be an activation this creates the problem you mentioned. I am going to ponder this for a bit. Excellent points!


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Naval War HQ replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 2 weeks ago

First quick fix would be to tweak the existing rule to keep fighters from patrolling in the turn they launched.
Secondly, reintroducing the land-capacity would reintroduce bookkeeping so I am hesitant to do that. Another option is to reduce the launch capacity with the number of flights that are patrolling near the carrier. This would add some decisionmaking without adding to the bookkeeping. It is also realistic. Keeping a CAP in the air required constant landing, servicing and refueling for a carrier. No planes could be on deck because of that (thats what helped cause the Midway disaster for the Japanese. I am going to think this through somewhat further....


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habaya replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 2 weeks ago

About launch/land capacities:
In 1.4 I think book keeping was not big deal, but still might have been an issue for some when land and launch were in different phases. But in 1.5 they are executed at the same time, so I don't see any book keeping problem. E.g. your capacity is 6: you land 4 and launch 2 at the same time. Done, no problem.
On the other hand, counting CAPs and figuring out which should be substracted from which carrier's capacity feels like more work.vI think adding concept of fuel forces the CAPs to land from time-to-time, so I don't think we need an extra abstraction for their re-loading, fueling.

About surprise: I think it would be great fun to add some kind of a surprise factor to air attacks: I really feel there should be a one time bonus when an opponent is discovered first - like an initial surprise run. Also in general, it would be realistic if we did not allow the defender to prepare to counter the exact composition and size of the attacker until they arrive. In real life defenders rarely knew in advance what was coming until the attackers actually arrived.

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Naval War HQ replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 2 weeks ago

I like your thinking. You are right with the cap issue, now that the landing/launching is in the same phase it should be much less of an issue.

The real problem here is that we don't want some double-blind system so the element of surprise is hard to model. Maybe something along the sub first strike rule combined with the flames of war ambush rules mechanics could work here.

Something like: if you first spot an enemy squadron, before revealing what the group is made out of, the attacking player may decide to have launched a first strike. Enemy CAP flights need to roll a 4+ to see if they are in the right spot (in the air instead of rearming/refueling) and every attacking flight needs to roll a 2+ to attack to account for planes lost searching for the target etc.

Another way to cover this could be to launch a strike before final confirmation is asked. This keeps within the current mechanics of air searches. Instead of having a scout confirm, the strike makes the final confirmation. Again, the squadron is caught by surprise, so each CAP flight can only react on a 4+.

Making this up as I go... any thoughts?


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habaya replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 2 weeks ago

I agree with you that double-blind system is not the way to go, it would be much better to model surprise some other way.

I will try to test your suggestions - please give me a bit of time for that.

Generally, let me summarize how I imagine the whole thing (just brain storming, not thoroughly tested)

1. There should be a one-time surprise bonus for launching attacks from hidden carriers
One possible implementation:
Hidden carriers can launch+move air groups to target in ONE step. Basically, they can launch directly next to their target in the preparations phase. Then they can make an attack activation in the activations phase that follows. They could do launch-move max in two preparations phase, as for the second launch+move preparations phase they should be revealed.
Pros:
Gives initial advantage to the attacker, add surprise factor. Size and composition of air groups is revealed only when they arrive at the target.
Cons:
Attacking air groups "time travel": no time is spent for flying towards the target.

2. CAPs must be rearmed/refueled frequently, basically occupy the runways while under attack (just like in real life Midway)
One possible implementation:
CAPs can patrol right after they are launched, but they are launched with little fuel (can spend 1 turn in the air). Then they have to land. I think land/launch limit is needed, but that is not enough, because if CAPs have loads of fuel, they can just circle in the air and let other planes take-off. Attacker advantage would be gone in 1 turn (it happened in my tests).
Pros:
This allows the CAPs to partially react to arriving attackers, but prevents them from flooding the sky.
Cons:
Need to remember that CAPs are low on fuel (more about fuel later).

About fuel in general: we introduced fuel in 1.4 in our house rules. In general, air groups that take off get 4 fuel tokens. Loiters get 5 fuel tokens. In each end phase, one fuel token is removed from each air group. If there is any group without fuel after the end phase, that group is destroyed. If two (or more) groups merge, the fuel level for the new group will be the lower of the two (or more) composite groups. According to this system CAPs could get 2 fuel tokens (so they could not spend 2 full turns in the air). We tried this and worked very well. No difficult book keeping is needed, just a bunch of fuel tokens :)

On top of the above I am also re-thinking the air war so that launching and attacking would be very fast (launch+move+attack in 1 turn), but returning home slow (2 turns to get home). This would leave the 3-cycle, so aircrafts are not overpowered, but also gave the surprise factor for the whole air war (aircrafts appearing out of the blue). I know this is a long shot, just mentioning as food for thought.

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Naval War HQ replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 2 weeks ago

I like the fuel token idea, and combined with the air group rules from 1.5 this can be handled for lots of planes with just a few tokens. It also makes it instantly clear what the fuel level of each group is.
Reinstating the Launch/Land cap combined with the fuel level comes a long way in fixing the logistic problems of a big CAP.

Now for the attackers: how about taking it to the next level and make a command station activation for the carrier strike?
Carrier strike (draft): 2+
Advanced activation
Select an air group, this air group can make an immediate air movement as if it was the remaining actions phase. It cannot make another move in the following remaining actions phase.

This might allow for more dynamics than just those tied to hidden carriers. I'm wrecking my mind to find images of some of those surprise attacks like Coral Sea and Midway (those usually didn't go quite as planned). We could even implement some cool risk if the activation is disrupted like: "On failure, the air group is split in half (so needs to either regroup or attack piecemeal), On critical failure, the group gets lost and returns to the ship."

Keep brainstorming, I think there is gold under there somewhere...


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Last edit: 6 months 2 weeks ago by Naval War HQ.
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habaya replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 2 weeks ago

My initial feeling is that activation for carrier strike is a great idea!

We have mentioned so many things in this thread, I think I need a bit of time to start testing these in practice. I will try mini air wars and also want to see how they work when complete games are played (e.g. with hidden deployment + searching). I will get back on this subject in a few days - might be next week because I will travel in the second half of this week. If in the meantime you get any other ideas or test results, please post them.

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habaya replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 1 week ago

Our test have shown that by introducing three things, the air war has become much better:
1. air groups/flights could move in the activation phase for a command token (for simplicity only as normal activation, not advanced)
2. when flights are launched in the preparation phase, they could be designated as CAPs, which makes them available for intercepting right away, but they start with fuel for only 1 turn
3. launch capacities are launch AND land capacities

The result of the above:
The defender must keep CAP in the air in every turn, because enemy can attack in the same turn when launched or the next, as he chooses. This forces the defender to protect the skies for more then 1 turn. Also he cannot protect it will full force, as he has to land/launch constantly. So, for a defending carrier that has 6 capacity best defensive tactic is to have 3 fighters in the air and replace them every turn. If he uses this tactic there is no way he can launch and attack - just as Japanese could not in real life. In the tests it turned out that the defense is still fairly strong this way, only a few attacking flights could go pass them in the first wave of attacks. But I guess it's okay, as this was the case in real life, too. It still has not become dull, because in later waves a there were various outcomes depending on earlier rolls, commands, evasions, etc. So, it was fun.

I plan to make a detailed battle report of a Coral Sea carrier battle with some customized rules, so you could see how some of my suggestions work out. It would be great if you could review it. I plan to play the game and make the report within a week's time.

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Naval War HQ replied the topic: Rules 1.5 beta: overpowered defenders in air battles

6 months 1 week ago

Great, those are some good idea's.
I'm trying to keep up with you, in the one-drive folder you will now find a folder with command station cards. I've converted them all to a format that gives me enough flexibility to make quick changes. I can generate them now in about 5 mins work via my database.

You can use the following rules for them: Pick 10 command station orders, with 1 in reserve. At the start of the battle you may switch out one order for the reserve-order. Fleet special rules are per the original command stations. I will convert those next to only include the fleet special rules (basic activations can be referenced via the QRS). Probably also card sized.

I've included two new orders: 'First strike' and 'Scramble the CAP'. If you would like to try both the orders in addition to your own suggestion of making fixed rules for it in the rulebook? I really like the interaction of these two orders for the air-war.

Furthermore I will include the expanded use of fuel in the rulebook (its on my list) and design some tokens for it but for now just go with your suggestions of 4 fuel tokens for aircraft and +1 for loiter aircraft. That feels about right.

I haven't got the chance to play some trial games myself but I plan to have some simulations soon.


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Last edit: 6 months 1 week ago by Naval War HQ.
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